Archive for the ‘Minor characters’ Category

The other day, I found an article by AJ Pollard, The Northern Retainers of Richard Nevill, Earl of Salisbury, that sent me into my happy dance. Not that I want to clutter up the landscape with a lot of extraneous names and faces, but it will help me bring depth and texture to a couple of pretty crucial chapters. It was sheer luck – and the late mediaeval practice of recycling scraps of parchment – that allowed this list to survive. Ignored for centuries, someone took a closer look at this scribbled on scrap and said “Hey, this is a list of the earl of Salisbury’s northern retainers!” Pollard says its journey began at Middleham, where it was picked up during Salisbury’s months of exile in Calais, when Middleham Castle was in the hands of others. Some time later, the scrap was used as a flyleaf in a wholly unrelated work.

It’s a list of 19 men and the fees paid to them, compiled sometime between 1457 and 1459. Where it comes in handy for me is that among the mass of men accompanying Salisbury and his sons from Middleham to Ludlow (or, in the case of his sons, not quite Ludlow) there are now some with names. This list partly corresponds to the list given in The Poleaxed Source Books (which have their flaws, but are a good place to start) of the men who fought for (Y) at the battle of Blore Heath.

Pollard has grouped the men into: 1. substantial local gentry who lived closed to Middleham, linked together through marriage and pretty much all of an age with Salisbury; 2. Salisbury’s men living in ‘enemy’ country, within the earl of Westmorland’s sphere of influence; 3. those who lived in Percy/Clifford country.

I thought I’d try and track a few of them down, see what I can find. (There is one man listed as fighting for Salisbury at Blore Heath who doesn’t appear in Pollard’s list who intrigues me.) Here’s what I’ve managed to find. Today’s chappie is:

Sir Robert Ogle of Bothal 

Bothal is some 35km south of Alnwick, so very much in the heart of Percy territory. Ogle first comes to notice at the first battle of St Albans, where he led Warwick’s archers through the back gardens of houses and into the market square, surprising the half-ready ‘Lancastrians’ and breaking the deadlock.

I don’t have a birthdate for sir Robert, but it’s likely to have been around 1400. He married Isabel Kirkby of Kirkby Ireleth. They had two children, a son Owen and a daughter, Isabel or Elizabeth, who married Ogle’s fellow retainer, Sir John Middleton of Belsay.

Ogle was constable of Norham castle and, from there, negotiated a year’s truce with the Scots in 1461. In 1462, he was created Lord Ogle and appointed steward of the forfeited Percy estates. The following year, when the Percies declared for Henry VI and occupied the northern castles of Bamburgh, Dunstanburgh and Alnwick, Ogle endured a 15 day siege at Norham. His garrison was relieved by the earl of Warwick, who followed that up with a raid into Scotland. Ogle died in November 1469, possibly of wounds received at the battle of Edgecote.


Pollard. AJ. 1976, The Northern Retainers of Richard Nevill Earl of Salisbury, Northern History
–. 1990, North-eastern England During the Wars of the Roses, Clarendon Press


“The only things known to go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the philosopher Ly Tin Weedle. He reasoned like this: you can’t have more than one king, and tradition demands that there is no gap between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore pass to the heir *instantaneously*. Presumably, he said, there must be some elementary particles — kingons, or possibly queons — that do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the signal, were never fully expanded because, at that point, the bar closed.”

Terry Pratchett, Mort

The kingon was very busy between the death of Edward IV on 9 April 1483 and Richard III’s acceptance of the crown on 26 June. First, the particle moved instantaneously from Edward IV to his son, Edward V. There it hovered, not quite settling in, until it found itself spinning from Edward to his uncle, Richard. And, given the story of the precontract and Edward being declared illegitimate, there’s reason to think that it had never been in Edward at all. Because Edward was never King. Edward V’s kingship was a bit like Schroedinger’s cat. It both existed and didn’t exist in the boy at the same time. The only way anyone was going to know for sure was when they opened the box. (Just to round things out, I might try and squeeze Heisinenberg’s uncertainty principle in here as well. I’m not promising, mind.)

Related to the kingon, but much rarer and far more mysterious, is the treason. Not only is it instantaneous and not particularly discriminatory, but it may be the only particle that can travel back in time.

Here’s my thinking:

Between 9 April and 26 June 1483, two states co-existed in potentia.

1. Edward V was King (had been since his father’s death and would be until his own death);
2. Edward V was not King (and had never been).

The kingon, therefore, was both in and not in young Edward and both in and not in Richard. It was probably rather nervous. I can’t say I blame it.

On 13 June, 1483, William Lord Hastings was summarily executed in the Tower of London, having been accused of treason, dragged out of the council chamber and beheaded. So, what had he done to deserve this? It’s a question with a lot of possible answers, the simplest of which, and the one I hear most often, is ‘he committed treason’. In order to come anywhere close to an answer, we need to find out what treason is.

Here’s the Oxford Dictionaries definition.

The important part here for us is ‘attempting to kill or overthrow the sovereign’. Who was, at this time, recognised to be Edward V. So, if Hastings was guilty of treason, it had to be against Edward V.

I’m often told this isn’t necessarily the case. I’m told that attempting to kill or overthrow a Lord Protector (that is, at the time, Richard of Gloucester) is also treason. Which it is, because the Protector stands in for the King. But attempting to kill or overthrow a Lord Protector isn’t treason against the Protector, it’s still treason against the King. In 1454, when the duke of Exeter led a revolt attempting to have himself replace the duke of York as Protector of England during Henry VI’s first illness, he was arrested and locked up in a castle awaiting trial. Had Henry not recovered and, almost immediately, released Exeter, he might have been tried on charges of treason. Against Henry VI for messing with his stand in, the Lord Protector. He would not have been tried on charges of treason against the Protector himself. This is an important point…

…because Hastings is accused of plotting against Richard in order to ensure that Edward V was crowned and took his throne. As no-one in England took precedence over the King, any duty of loyalty Hastings owed Richard (or anyone) was soundly (and royally) trumped by the expectation of loyalty to Edward V. However you slice it, Hastings simply cannot be guilty of treason.

That’s all pretty straightforward. Except…

By 26 June, Edward was no longer King (and had never been king) and Richard was (and had been since his brother’s death). The kingon that had moved instantaneously from Edward IV to Edward V had now, by some strange twist of physics, moved instantaneously from Edward IV to Richard III. And not on 26 June but on 9 April. Which means that Hastings, despite him having been acting on behalf of the King, Edward V, had been acting against the King, Richard III. Only no-one knew that at the time. And, at the time, he wasn’t.

If you know where you are but not how fast you’re moving, then you’re doing better than me.

So, the treason that didn’t hit Hastings on 13 June (on 13 June), did hit him on 13 June (on 26 June). It travelled back in time.

If you’re planning a visit to Cern any time in the near future, I’d watch out for treasons. You might have been hit by one three days before you arrived.

I thought I’d share part of my research and writing process, using Richard Welles as an example. It goes something like this:

• There’s this person whose name crops up from time to time in connection with one or other of the Nevills;

• I know nothing or next to nothing about them;

• I think ‘Oh, well, they’re not really all that important at this point, so long as I get the bits I do know right”.

• They keep cropping up in more and more contexts, until finally…

• I find myself asking awkward questions I can’t answer.

In Welles’ case the current awkward question is: “If, as they did, Welles and his wife, Maud Stanhope’s stepdaughter, harried her out of her dower lands, and as this affected her second husband, Thomas Nevill, how on earth did the Nevills and the Welles’ end up being so close?” Close enough for Welles to have a substantial role in the Archbishop of York’s enthronement feast; and close enough for Welles and his son, Robert, to lead the Lincolnshire rebellion on Warwick’s behalf and, sadly, both lose their lives as a result.

Maud did get her dower lands back and she and Thomas both lived there for a time (as she did with her third husband, Gervase Clyfton). The only thing I can find that tells me this is a reference in official records that mentions Thomas as ‘Sir Thomas Nevill of Eresby’ in 1459. (Eresby being where Maud’s dower lands were.) In 1460, Richard Welles, up until then a staunch supporter of Henry VI, swore himself to Edward IV. Five years after that, he was acting as carver at George Nevill’s big feast. Four years after that, he was executed after confessing his part, Warwick’s and Clarence’s in the Lincolnshire rebellion.

I don’t know anything about the state of Maud’s relationship with her stepdaughter, beyond Maud being forced from her dowerlands. While that might suggest that the two weren’t particular friends, it could also have been a case of  ‘nothing personal’. I recently came across an intriguing few snippets referring to an ongoing property dispute between Henry Fitzhugh and his sister Joan, wife of lord Scrope of Bolton. Seems there was a garden in York that each swore their father had given, bestowed upon or left them. I’ve found nothing that suggests any ill feeling between the Fitzhugh siblings, or between Henry and John Scrope. I haven’t followed the story through to whatever the outcome might have been. That’s a task for another time.

Maud’s first husband, Robert Lord Willoughby, died in July 1452. In January the following year, Maud was granted her dower lands. From the relevant Privy Council Proceedings:

To the escheator in Lincolnshire. Order to take of Maud who was wife of Robert Wylughby knight an oath, etc., and in presence of Joan daughter and heir of the said Robert, or of her attorneys, to assign dower to the said Maud.

To Geoffrey Fyldyng mayor of the city of Lincoln and escheator therein. Order to assign dower to the said Maud, of whom the king has commanded the escheator in Lincolnshire to take an oath etc.

Some little while after this, Maud was forced to flee Eresby for sanctuary with her uncle, Ralph Lord Cromwell, at Tattershall.

The best I can say at the moment is that some time between her marriage to Thomas Nevill in August 1453 and 1459, Maud did enter into her dower lands and from then until his death in December 1460, that was Thomas Nevill’s principle place of residence.

In December 1454, Maud’s mother died at Tuxford in Nottinghamshire. Though I don’t have a firm record of this, Maud and her husband may have attended the Inquisition Post Mortem. As subsequent events would show, Thomas wasn’t known for sitting back and waiting for officials and executors to sort things out. He tended to take a more proactive approach. So I’m left, failing any firm evidence, with conjecture to fall back on: a meeting between the two men, the tentative beginnings of a friendship, a level of rapprochement between Maud and her step-son-in-law, steps taken towards getting the property at Eresby back into Maud’s hands. And the foundations of a friendship between the two men that, after Thomas’s death and Welles coming to terms with the new Yorkist king, was easily transferred to the earl of Warwick. Given Maud’s later dealings with John Nevill (which I’m not going to tell you about here – I have to hold something back!), any connection forged between her and Welles during her second marriage could have possibly acted as a layer of glue holding the two families together. Of course, Maud alone couldn’t have been responsible for the closeness of the ties between Welles and Warwick that allowed, at great peril to himself, Richard Welles Lord Willoughby and his son, Robert Lord Welles, to stir and lead a rebellion on Warwick’s behalf.

What I’d really like to find (and I’ve hunted for it, trust me!) is a clear reference to when Maud and Thomas got control of the Eresby lands. I don’t mind Making Crap Up if I have no choice, but I’d rather not have to. So, until I don’t have to, I’ll be doing the best I can with what little I have.


Birth of Mary of Burgundy to Charles duke of Burgundy and Isabelle of Bourbon. After the death of his wife Isobel Nevill in 1476, George duke of Clarence and his sister (Mary’s stepmother) Margaret duchess of Burgundy, discussed a marriage between George and Mary. Edward IV intervened and the proposed marriage didn’t go ahead.

In 1477, Mary married Maximilian archduke of Austria. She died in 1482.

In Sir Richard Roos: Lancastrian poet, Ethel Seaton deciphers anagrams in Roos’s poems in order to piece together just who and what the poems were about. Now, I’m not at all sure I fully understand the process, nor am I entirely sure how sound this process is, but using these clues, she has attributed two poems (one in the Devonshire ms and one in the Egerton ms) to Roos; the first written for Thomas Nevill and the second for Gervase Clyfton. (Both have also been attributed to sir Thomas Wyatt.) I linked to both of these in my last blog, but I thought it might be worth including them here in full:

Thomas’s poem

Ye know my herte my ladye dere
that sins the tyme I was  yor thrall
I have bene yors bothe hole and clere
tho my rewarde hathe bene but small
so am I yet and more then all
And ye kno well how I haue serued
as yf ye prove it shall apere
howe well / how longe
how faithefulye
and soffred wrong
how patientlye
then sins that I have neuer swarfde
let not my paines be ondeserude

Ye kno also though ye saye naye
that you alone are my desire
and you alone yt is that maye
asswage my fervent flaming fire
Soccor me then I you require
Ye kno yt ware a Iust request
sins ye do cause my heat I saye
yf that I bourne
that ye will warme
and not to tourne
all to my harme
sending soch flame from frossen brest
againste nature for my vnreste

And I kno well how scornefullye
ye have mistane my true entente
and hidreto how wrongfullye
I have founde cause for to repente
but if yor herte doth not relente
sins I do kno that this ye kno
ye shall fle me all wilfullye
for me and myne
and all I have
ye maye assine
to spill or save
whye are ye then so cruell foo
vnto yor owne that lovis you so.

from The Devonshire Manuscript

This poem need not suggest that Thomas was in love with his wife. It may have been commissioned for the wedding celebrations as an honour to the bride. It certainly celebrates the ideals of courtly love  – the faithful lover, the disdain of his lady love – and one suspects a man hostile, or even indifferent, to his bride might not have thought to have such a poem written. I’ve said before that the Nevills seems to have had remarkable luck with their marriage partners, or perhaps wise parents who cared enough about their children’s happiness to choose well, or maybe they were just determined not to spend their lives in marital misery and worked at it. Whatever the reality of it, I have a sense that, at the very least, their marriage began with hope, and perhaps the promise, of lasting affection. Whether that was sustained and sustainable is another matter.

Gervase’s poem

To seke eche where, where man doth lyve,
The See, the land, the Rock, the clyve,
Fraunce, Spayne and Ind and every where
Is none a greater gift to gyve,
Lesse sett by oft and is so lyff and dere,
Dare I well say than that I gyve to yere.
I cannot gyve browches nor Ringes,
Thes goldsmythes work and goodly thinges,
Piery nor perle oryente and clere,
But for all that is no man bringes
Leffer Juell vnto his lady dere,
Dare I well say, then that I gyve to yere.
Nor I seke not to fetche it farr,
Worse is it not tho it be narr,
And as it is it doeth appere
Vncontrefaict mistrust to barr,

Left hole and pure withouten pere,
Dare I well say the gift I gyve to yere.
To the therefore the same retain;
The like of the to have again,
Fraunce would I gyve if myn it were;
Is none alyve in whome doeth rayne
Lesser disdaine; frely, therfore, lo here,
Dare I well gyve, I say, my hert to yere.

from Collected Poems of Thomas Wyatt

This poem is to my ear much more straightforward than the first. Clyfton didn’t need to have the words dressed up in the imagery of courtly love, though there is certainly some there. He isn’t a poor man, exactly, nor without honour and position, but he is poorer than his wife. She is the one endowing him with wordly gifts, all he has to give her is his heart.

Guesswork based on very little information can be fun… It can also lead you down totally erroneous pathways, but if you don’t have the information, how do you know?

So, I have the information now and travelling the right path is going to be so much more rewarding than anything mere guesswork can provide – for me and everyone else. There’s still a little of that, mind you…

So, I’ve talked a little bit about Maud and Thomas’s marriage (and here) and about Gervase Clyfton before. Not quite totally wrong, but close enough. There are times when being wrong can be bitter and close to unbearable. This is not one of those times. I’ve linked both those posts to this one, coz this one is definitive! Um, well… As close to it as I can get, and that’s a good deal closer than I was at the start of all this.

Near the end of my Gervase Clyfton post, I suggested three possible reasons why Maud married him. I can now say, with very little uncertainty, that it was reason #1. She loved him.

Pretty much the whole of this post is based on two articles by Dr Rhoda Friedrichs: The Remarriage of Elite Widows in the Later Middle Ages and Rich Old Ladies Made Poor: The vulnerability of women’s property in late medieval England. The first one I stumbled upon, the second I knew about but couldn’t access. I got in touch with Dr Friedrichs, who very kindly sent me a copy. In the meantime, the Article Fairy blessed me once more and I now have a two copies! (Thanks, Susan!) As with many much anticipated events, the arrival of the article was tinged with a little ‘what if I’ve set so much store by this and it’s not what I hoped for?’. But it was… and more! So, from those two articles, some bits and pieces from the Patent Rolls of Henry VI and Edward IV, as well as Edward IV’s Close Rolls, and some flavour courtesy of Richard Roos, I present to you:

Marriage & the Nevills: Robert, Thomas, Gervase and Maud – the director’s cut


Maud Stanhope’s life was turbulent and tumultuous to say the least. It didn’t begin that way, though. The oldest of three children born to Richard Stanhope and Maud Cromwell, she was probably destined to marry into comfortable and safe Nottingham gentry. Her father had children from a previous marriage, and her full brother Henry was set to inherit both their mother’s property and that of their uncle, Ralph Lord Cromwell. (Cromwell was a large figure in Maud’s life, both during his lifetime and after his death.) Apart from her brother, Maud had a sister Jane, who was two years younger than her. At the time of Maud’s first marriage, neither she nor Jane had much to recommend them as brides of noblemen – they preferred wives who could bring them wealth or, particularly for younger sons, titles. Maud had neither.

Before, and for some time during, her first marriage, Maud held a position in the household of the duchess of Gloucester. Here she met, among others, Gervase Clyfton (Gloucester’s treasurer) and William Nevill lord Fauconberg. What her relationship with the former might have been isn’t known, but she seems to have carried on a ‘courtly’ love affair with Fauconberg before being replaced in his affections by Barbelina Herberquyne, a member of Margaret of Anjou’s household. In Roos’s poetry, Maud is consistently associated with Mercury’s gift of eloquence and a fondness for argument. It would seem that she was a woman of some intelligence and not a little learning. In later life, her willingness to argue her case deserted her only once. After the downfall of first the duchess of Gloucester and later the duke, Maud left court to live with her husband in Lincolnshire.

Around 1448, Uncle Cromwell found Maud a husband. He was a widower of mature years with a grown up daughter of his own. On her marriage to him, Maud would gain herself a title – Lady Willougbby – but little by way of wealth. Robert Willoughby was not a rich man. He owed Cromwell money and wasn’t in a position to pay up. So the two men struck up a deal. Cromwell’s niece, Maud, would marry Lord Willoughby, with the debt written off against her dowry. Maud gave her consent to this, but whether she was happy in her marriage, we don’t know. It would seem that there was some resentment from her step-daughter Joan, then married to Robert Lord Welles. Joan no doubt feared that her father’s new bride, who was just a year older than her, would do something stupid like have a son, thus depriving Joan of an inheritance she’d have been counting on for most of her life. She needn’t have worried – the Willoughbys had no children.

When Robert died in July 1452, Joan Welles and her husband immediately took steps to secure her late father’s property, including Maud’s dower. Maud was forced to flee Eresby for the sanctuary of her uncle’s castle at Tattershall. Though her mother was still alive, and living at Tuxford in Nottinghamshire, Maud didn’t seek shelter with her. Maybe there was more room at Tattershall for Maud and her household.

By this time, Henry Stanhope had died, leaving Maud and Joan as Cromwell’s joint heirs. As the expected practice was for a rich man to leave one third of his property to his wife, one third to his heirs and one third for the salvation of his soul, and as Cromwell was a very rich man indeed, suddenly Maud became a much more attractive marriage prospect. She should have had both social and financial independence, and the right to choose who (or whether) to remarry. In reality, she was in need of a protector, someone who could secure and safeguard her current and potential property. Like, say, young Richard Nevill had done when his wife came into her sudden and unexpected inheritance. The Nevills were good people for Cromwell to turn to, and not only for Maud’s sake. Cromwell had troubles of his own and was in need of powerful support. Allying himself to the Nevills, and giving Maud into the hands of an energetic young man like Thomas, the earl of Salisbury’s second son, might just be the answer to both their problems. In May 1453, the marriage contract was sealed. In August, the wedding took place at Tattershall castle.


In December 1454, Maud’s mother died. In Lady Stanhope’s Inquisition Post Mortem, Maud is said to be 30. I had been working on the premise that she and Thomas were the same age, but she was some 5 years older than him. Clearly, this age difference bothered neither of them, as both were quick to consent to the match. For Maud, it offered a way out of what must have been a most embarrassing poverty and an imposition on her uncle and aunt. That it was an imposition is borne out by the fact that Cromwell billed her for her household’s expenses during her months at Tattershall. Maud hadn’t been expecting this and it’s likely it distressed her on two counts: she didn’t have any money, and he was the one she’d turned to in her time of need – family are supposed to cheerfully help out under such circumstances. (Judge Judy, I’m sure, would have made mincemeat of Uncle Ralph – one suspects that he would have got an iconic “You’re an idiot!” or two.)

A poem in the Devonshire ms, often attributed to Thomas Wyatt, may have been written by Richard Roos for Thomas Nevill, possibly to be recited during the wedding festivities.

I can make few guesses about the state of Thomas and Maud’s marriage. They had no children, and the birthplaces of children can be a very useful guide as to how much time a couple spent together. Where they lived, either together or separately, during their seven year marriage is pretty much a matter of guesswork. They started their married life at Middleham Castle and I suspect they stayed there for the last three months of 1453 and much, if not all, of 1454. Thomas was, at this time, up to his eyeballs in Percy and Maud was homeless.

Late in 1453, a ‘Lady Willoughby’ is listed amongst the guests attending Margaret of Anjou’s churching. Now, Maud used this title right up until she inherited the Cromwell title from her sister, but it could refer to her step-daughter, Joan Welles. They may both have been there, which might have been awkward had Maud not been surrounded by the dazzling display that was the Nevill women, which included the most dazzling of them all – the Countess of Warwick; and had there not been other, more pressing and more prominent examples of bad blood on display. In the interests of not bombarding the reader with too many minor characters, I have chosen to leave the step-daughter out of the picture altogether, except when Maud allows a stray thought about the bitch Joan to pass through her mind.

In February 1456, Jane Stanhope married Humphrey Bourchier, a nephew of the Duke of York. Thomas and Maud may well have attended the wedding, which was probably, like Maud’s, celebrated at Tattershall. The next time they were there was later in the year when they, along with Jane and her husband, attended Cromwell’s funeral.

Of Cromwell’s funeral, and the revelation of the terms of his will, Friedrichs has this to say: “The Nevilles may or may not have had detailed information about the extent of Cromwell’s wealth, but they certainly had the evidence of their eyes: well over a hundred manors and buildings in over a dozen counties, with a solid core in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire, palatial manor houses, three of them newly built, costly furnishings and adornments, over a hundred horses in the stables, and a reputed annual expenditure of over £5,000. There was also the presumption that one of them would acquire the title of Lord Cromwell.”

Thomas was about to get his reward for rescuing Maud from financial embarrassment. One third of Cromwell’s wealth, shared between the two sisters and their husbands, would have represented a great deal. Given that Lady Cromwell predeceased her husband, that should have risen to two thirds. Cromwell, however, had changed his will. Maud and Jane were to get property to the value of 500 marks per annum each – a tiny fraction of what they were expecting. Their husbands tried everything they could to change this state of affairs, from attempting to negotiate with the executors to seizing goods and property by force. Thomas must have been bitterly disappointed and I can only think that Maud must have felt deeply let down by her uncle. But a will is a will and there was nothing to be done. Thomas Nevill was certainly better off than he might otherwise have been, but that wouldn’t have been much consolation. No decision at that time seems to have been made regarding the Cromwell title.

The sisters did get the plum property – Tattershall was theirs to share, though not its contents. Until Jane’s death in 1481 it doesn’t seem to have been Maud’s principle place of residence. Where she and Thomas lived, I don’t know, but I was most gratified to find that my carefully worked out premise that they lived in a Cromwell manor at Bleasby in Nottinghamshire has turned out to be at least plausible – it was one of the manors Maud was forced to turn over to Anthony Wydeville in 1465 (see below). I’ve put them there because it’s nice and central – not too far from Tuxford (which Maud also inherited), Tattershall and Nottingham. Maud’s third husband styled himself ‘of Eresby’, and Eresby was where Maud’s once lost dower property was. Though I haven’t found any record of how and when she got this back, it does seem that she did and that was where she lived while married to Gervase Clyfton.

Another thing I don’t know is what comprised her jointure and what property Thomas owned in his own right, so what she may have inherited from her second marriage is a mystery.

After John Nevill’s marriage to Isobel Ingoldisthorpe in May 1457, and Warwick’s departure for Calais, Thomas served as his brother’s lieutenant in the West March. This may have precipitated a move north, but again I don’t know that for certain. I’ve put them temporarily in Carlisle, for plot reasons more than anything else, but if they were there, it wasn’t for long.

In 1459, the Nevills and their ally, the Duke of York, were starting to feel the heat. York was, at the time, Henry VI’s chief councillor, but the King’s confidence in him wasn’t shared by his Queen. Three parties set off for York’s castle at Ludlow – Warwick coming from Calais and the Nevills from Middleham. On the way, the earl of Salisbury and his sons, Thomas and John, (and possibly in company with his countess) engaged the forces of Lords Audley and Dudley at Blore Heath. Salisbury won the day but lost his sons. Though the details are sketchy, it seems they were separated from the main Nevill force, either chasing the defeated enemy or held up due to an injury to one of them, and were captured. They spent the next year or so in Chester Castle. The rest of the Yorkists, including the countess of Salisbury, fled England, having been attainted for treason.

Where was Maud? I’ve not come across a suggestion that she shared her husband’s captivity. Like the other wives of the missing Yorkists, with the exception of the countess of Salisbury, she was specifically excluded from the charges against her husband. Though Thomas’s property was subject to forfeit, hers was not. It must have been a worrying time for everyone.

Thomas and John were released after the Yorkist victory at Northampton. He and Maud would have been reunited at some point. Maud was clearly not a diehard Yorkist, and she may have been uncomfortable with the actions of her husband’s family. She might even have shared the political views of her third husband and begun to distance herself from the Nevills. Thomas was killed the following year at the battle of Wakefield. Maud had been his wife for seven years. Their marriage had rescued her from financial distress and they had shared the disappointment of her curtailed inheritance and the struggle to win a larger share. However she felt about him, and whatever the state of their marriage, his death must have come as something of a blow. She didn’t, however, spend much time in mourning.


Just when and how Maud and Gervase Clyfton became reacquainted I don’t know. It would seem that she knew him from her days at court, when he was Duke Humphrey of Gloucester’s treasurer. She may have had contact with him while he was treasurer of Calais, a post he held from 1450 to 1460. He was an odd choice for her for a number of reasons. Friedrichs says that their marriage “flew in the face of all prudence and common sense”. He was illegitimate, of considerably lower social status and, worst of all, a committed Lancastrian. From the point of view of Maud’s in-laws, he’d fought on the wrong side both at Wakefield and Towton. The Countess of Salisbury named him as one of the men responsible for the wrongful death of her husband. A marriage licence was granted them on 10 August 1461 by Archbishop Booth of York. The Nevills must have been outraged. Any hope she had of their ongoing support vanished. Maud was on her own.

According to Seaton, Richard Roos wrote a poem for Gervase, in celebration of his new wife. (As a frequent subject, or at least inhabitant, of Roos’s poetry, and as an old friend from her days at court, Maud became a caretaker for his work. It is thanks to her passing them on to her Stanhope cousins that many of them are still in existence.)

Gervase was some years older than Maud. He owned land in Kent, courtesy of his first wife, and served in the commons. So far, I’ve come across four sources that have different opinions on the number of children he had from his first marriage. An extremely useful RootsWeb discussion says that he was married first to Isabel Scott and they had  a daughter, also Isabel, who married John Jernyngham. It also states that Isabel Scott had been married before, so this daughter may have in actuality been a step-daughter.  The Peerage makes no mention of a first marriage or children. Friedrichs says he was a ‘childless widow’. Malcom Mercer’s The Strength of Lancastrian Loyalism, in The Journal of Medieval Military History, vol V, mentions a step-son, Sir John Scott, a close supporter of Edward IV. (Thanks again, Susan.)

Clyfton’s tenure as treasurer of Calais ended in 1460. Given his activities at the time, he was probably dismissed. There’s no mention of him in connection with Ludford, but he might have been one of the men who deserted York and Warwick. His tenure as treasurer could not have continued after that. He was succeeded by the Blounts, father (briefly) and son, Walter Lord Mountjoy,

It makes no sense to me that Gervase Clyfton was a stranger to Maud when they married, or even a recently renewed friend. Their paths must have crossed many times, given the Calais connection. He continued in his post when Warwick became Captain of Calais and, until 1460, there’s nothing to suggest any difficulties between the two men. Warwick certainly kept him on (or recommended to whoever it was in charge of such posts that he stay on, or at least not requested that he be replaced). Whatever the story, and whatever the relationship at the time between her and Gervase, Maud had a husband fighting on one side at Wakefield and at least an old friend on the other. Whatever grief she suffered at the news of Thomas’s death, it was shortlived. Some four months after the battle of Towton, she and Gervase were married.

Maud didn’t attend Thomas’s funeral at Bisham in 1462. Perhaps she was neither welcome nor invited.

She also, by her marriage to a man committed to the Lancastrian clause, forfeited her chance of gaining the Cromwell title. In 1461, it was Jane’s husband, Humphrey Bourchier, the new king’s cousin, who was summoned to parliament as Lord Cromwell. It seems odd to me that during their various periods of political ascendancy before that time, the Nevills didn’t manage to secure the title for Maud and Thomas. It was certainly one of the incentives for the marriage.

Maud and Gervase didn’t have a comfortable life. Gervase was specifically excluded from the pardons in March 1461 and there was no lasting reconciliation with the new king, Edward IV.

From the Calendar of Close Rolls, Edward IV:

And that whatsoever person holding the party of the said adversary [Henry VI], that within ten days after this proclamation would depart from them, shall have grace and pardon of his life and goods, except Andrew Trollopp, William Grymsby, Edward Digby, William Feldyng, Thomas Fitzharry, Ellis Cornewayll, Doctor Moreton, Gervase Clyfton, Thomas Tunstall, Henry Lowys knight, Thomas Parker of the Forthe, Thomas Everyngham, John Devet, both bastards of Exeter, Master Hugh Payn, Thomas Langton, Henry Beaumont, William Belyngham, Alexander Hody, Henry Tudnam – Clapham the younger…

He wasn’t included in the list of men the people of England were invited to “actually destroy and bring out of life”. That was limited to Trollop, the bastards of Exeter, and a handful of others. As I alluded to earlier, I haven’t seen him mentioned in connection with Trollop’s actions at Ludford – and that doesn’t mean he isn’t mentioned somewhere, just that I haven’t seen it. It seems likely that he was one of Warwick’s Calais men who slipped away, thus precipitating the flight. The ending of his tenure as treasurer of Calais in 1460, coupled with his exclusion from the pardon, make me think that might have been the case. Maud was walking a dangerous path. If she and Gervase weren’t already lovers in 1459/60, and it’s entirely feasible that they were, she was at least on friendly terms with a man seen by the new government – which included her late husband’s brothers – as a traitor. This was how he continued to be seen for the bulk of their marriage.

Clyfton continued to work for the restoration of Henry VI, taking the field against John Nevill at Hexham. In 1465, in order to secure him a pardon, Maud handed over 16 manors to the king’s new brother-in-law, Anthony Wydeville. From the Close Rolls of Edward IV, 1465:

Gervase Clyfton knight and Maud his wife, late the wife of Robert lord Willoughby, to Anthony Wydevyle lord Scales and lord of Newsels and his assigns. Gift with warranty during the life of the said Maud of the manors of Candlesby, Halom, Lamley, Snawdon, Boston, Bleeseby, Gyppesmere, Goureton, Drainsfeld, Baseford, Quynton, Rasyn, Lufton, Belcheford and Tusfford with Denynecourt’s rent etc, cos Lincoln, Nottingham, Derby and Warwick, and the manor of Tumby co Lincoln except a great wood called ‘Tumby wodes’ otherwise ‘Tumby chace’, all late of Ralph lord Cromwell or of another to his use at his death, with advowsons of churches, chapels and chantries thereto pertaining, and all other lands, rents, reversions and services there wherein the grantors or others to their use or to the use of the said Ralph had any estate or interest, and request that all feoffees shall make the said Anthony an estate thereof during the life of the said Maud, with the exception aforesaid. Dated 24 November, 5 Edward IV.

Gervase Clyfton knight to Anthony Wydevyle knight lord Scales and lord of Newcelles. Bond in 1,ooo/ payable on the feast of the Purification next. Dated (as the last).

Condition, that if the manors etc above mentioned, except a wood of Tumby called the ‘Chace’, which the said Gervase and Maud his wife have given during her life to the said Anthony and his assigns, be before the Purification next found by two auditors by the parties appointed not to amount to the yearly value of 400 marks over and above charges and reprises, the said Gervase and Maud shall within one month likewise give other manors and lands to the amount lacking, and meantime shall suffer the said Anthony and his assigns without let to take all issues and profits of those already granted.

Gervase Clyfton knight to the king. Bond in 5,000/ payable on Easter day next. Dated 20 November, 5 Edward IV.

Condition, that he and Maud his wife shall observe and fulfil all things contained in a charter of divers manors and lands by them made to the said Anthony, and in a bond by him given to the said Anthony, both dated 24 November, 5 Edward IV, and in keeping of John earl of Worcester by assent of the said Gervase and Maud.

Memorandum of the acknowledgement of the foregoing writings by the said Gervase, 9 December.

These grants to Anthony Wydeville represented 80% of Maud’s wealth and property – an enormous price to pay for marrying a man of ‘inconvenient political loyalties’ (Friedrichs, Rich Old Ladies Made Poor, 221).

In 1468, Gervase was rumoured to be plotting on behalf of Henry VI. During the Readeption government, with Humphrey Bourchier  in prison (as diehard a Yorkist as Clyfton was a Lancastrian), Maud and Gervase were mistress and master of Tattershall. Maud’s at-a-distance reconciliation with the Nevill brothers must have felt a little strange. She’d been abandoned by them after her third marriage, and now her husband was a firm part of Warwick’s government – though quite what part I’ve yet to find out. Maud may have made her sister feel as unwelcome in their shared property as she no doubt did when it was a focus of Yorkist activity during the years leading up to the restoration of Henry VI.

Records of Warwick’s brief Readeption government are scarce, as is correspondence to and from Warwick. Maud would seem to have been a forceful personality and I wonder if she wrote to her once brother-in-law asking for his help to restore the properties previously granted to Lord Rivers, then in exile with Edward IV (and others) in Burgundy. Warwick had a good deal of fence mending to do, and if any steps were taken in this regard it would be for Clyfton’s sake, not Maud’s. As she didn’t give up trying to secure a fairer share of her uncle’s estate until almost the end of her life, it is entirely within the bounds of possibility that she made overtures to Warwick in order to restore her previously relinquished lands.

Humphrey Bourchier died fighting for his cousin, Edward IV, at Barnet. Gervase Clyfton was executed after the battle of Tewkesbury. Maud was a widow for the third time, and in the most dire financial straits.


Maud remained a widow for the rest of her life. With no money to recommend her, and at 47 no longer in the first bloom of youth, she wasn’t much of a catch. With three husbands dead, two by violence, and nothing to show for any of her marriages except the memories of a better life, she may well have felt it better not to tempt fate for a fourth time. She should have been looking forward to a more than comfortable old age. In 1472, she had to borrow money to hold Christmas. The following year, she sold (or lost in default of the loan) two of her remaining manors. But that wasn’t to be the end of her troubles. It was now William Lord Hastings’ turn to take from her what little she had left. Hastings was married to Thomas Nevill’s sister, Katheryn. But once again, no residual family feeling remained, and Hastings got what he wanted, not only from Maud but from her now remarried sister, Jane.

In 1476, a deal was made with bishop Wainflete (who’d been involved in the Cromwell inheritance from the start) over Tattershall Castle. I’m still trying to make sense of this. Wainflete wanted the Cromwell lands “for his college, but he was prepared to make what he considered appropriate provisions for the two ladies [Maud and Jane], rather than leave them utterly impoverished, a prospect that did not evidently trouble Lord Rivers or Lord Hastings” (Friedrichs, 224). In any event, the sisters were to hold Tattershall for the bishop. They may have had difficulty with its upkeep, for in 1476 Maud was trying to get the money together to build herself a house on the grounds.

In 1487, Margaret Beaufort got her hands on Tattershall. Maud, now living in her house on the castle grounds, “asserted herself one last time by issuing ordinances for observations at Tattershall College, indicating that she was still the patron of the college and the heiress of the founder. But in fact it was Lady Margaret who now held Tattershall and the real patronage of the college, although she was courteous about Lady Willoughby’s status as co-founder. Perhaps she was courteous about her daily life as well; we do not know, for Lady Willoughby, of course, had scarcely any property left to leave records, and her last ten years are silent. We can safely assume that Margaret Beaufort made sure she was indeed “honourably brought to earth” when she died on 30 August 1497, with no funeral image but with an inscription at the foot of her uncle’s prominent gravestone” (Friedrichs, 226-7). In this inscription, Maud is named as Lady Willoughby, through her first husband, and Lady Cromwell, through her uncle.

The Wars of the Roses left many women widowed by violence. Some, like Maud after the death of Thomas, picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and got on with the next phase of their lives with new husbands. Others, like Maud after the death of Gervase, chose to remain widows (or had the choice made for them) and did the best they could with what little they had. The more I read about Maud, the more interesting a person she becomes. A woman, one suspects, of great dignity and strong personality, she faced each of life’s difficulties, fighting when she could, surrendering when she had no choice. She married twice for good and sensible reasons, and once for very personal ones. Though there’s no way of telling if her marriage to Thomas Nevill was a happy one, I can imagine them forming a strong partnership in the matter of her inheritance. I can picture them in a room at Tattershall, Jane and Humphrey Bourchier with them, leaping to their feet when Cromwell’s executors give them the bad news, demanding their rights and deciding to do whatever it took, by use of force if necessary, to secure what belonged to them. I can also see her with Gervase, faced with an impossible choice – lose the bulk of her property and wealth or lose the man she loved.

At the time of her death, Maud had secured the Cromwell title. Sadly, from her three marriages she had no children to pass this to. What was left of her inheritance, and her sister’s, passed to distant cousins. I wonder sometimes what the children of Thomas and Maud would have been like – I suspect they would have been a force to be reckoned with. Certainly a Nevill son would have been a useful addition to Maud’s arsenal in her fight to retain something of her uncle’s wealth.

I refuse to see Maud as sad and defeated, though she must have been close to both at times. She occupies the same place in my heart as her sisters-in-law, Katheryn lady Hastings and Margaret countess of Oxford. All three were tied by marriage to politically active men who led their wives to the heights of power and prestige and into the depths of poverty and ignominy. Only one of them predecased her husband. Katheryn buried two and Maud three. Capturing her spirit and personality isn’t an easy task, but I feel I owe it to her to try.


Margaret Beaufort, widowed countess of Richmond, gives birth at Pembroke Castle to her only child – a son, Henry. His father, Edmund Tudor, earl of Richmond, is the half-brother of Henry VI through their mother, Catherine of Valois. Edmund died of plague while a prisoner at Carmarthen Castle in November 1456.

In 1485, after this battle of Bosworth, Henry will become Henry VII.


Battle of Wakefield.

Richard duke of York and his son Edmund, earl of Rutland are killed. Thomas Nevill, son of Richard Nevill earl of Salisbury is killed, as are William Bonville lord Harrington, husband of Salisbury’s daughter, Katheryn, and Edward Bourchier, son of York’s sister Isabel.

All it takes, sometimes, is one well written and well referenced article and you find yourself staring at a pile of paper, realising that it’s a mountain of nonsense, or at least, not-quite-rightness. I did the best I could with the tiny snatches of information that I’d managed to glean, but then I came across an article that made a rethink, and no doubt to some extent a refashioning, necessary.

I’m not one to cling, white knuckled, onto a preconceived notion. In Nevill (and in anything that may follow), I’m striving to let the facts lead the story. I don’t have a thesis that I want to prove, thus hammering the facts into peculiar shapes so that they fit the story I want to tell. And now I know one or two things about Maud Stanhope that I didn’t an hour ago. That changes things. If I want to claim that my work is anything close to well researched and accurate, then it has to be well researched and accurate. If my readers are being asked to believe something is true when not only is it not true, but I know it’s not… That’s not the kind of writer I want to be, and it’s not the kind of book I want to write.

I’ve been googling “Maud Stanhope” for years now. I’ve learned some stuff, but not a great deal. Much of it is genealogies of doubtful soundness. Hicks calls her a ‘youthful widow’, but apart from that, she’s essentially invisible in most secondary sources. I knew of one article that features her, and I knew what journal it was in, but try as I might I couldn’t find a way to access it.

Then, preparing to write a short scene with Maud and a couple of her attending women, I thought “I wonder if anyone’s written down the names of any members of her household?” So I googled “Maud Stanhope household” and found this:

The Remarriage of Elite Widows in the Later Middle Ages by Rhoda Friedrichs. The same woman who’d written the “Rich Ladies Made Poor” article that I can’t find! (I’ve sent her an email asking if she can point me to where I can purchase it. I have my fingers crossed that she has the time to respond.)

I’m actually annoyed that something as useful as this is buried so deep under the mountains of genealogies that it took an accident to find it. On the other hand, I am very happy that I found it! The last three pages consist of a case study of an Elite Widow who Remarried in the Later Middle Ages: Maud Stanhope, Lady Willoughby.

Some of the things I learned that prompt me to rethink and refashion:

• December 1454, inquisition post mortem of Maud’s mother, the sister of Ralph lord Cromwell. Maud’s age is given as 30.

(C/139/157/26 I tried to access this record. I can buy it for something like $15.00 or I can to go the National Archives and see it for free. But that will cost me a couple of thousand in airfares and accommodation…)

Two things come from this, one I’m not sure about and will need to dig deeper (if possible) to find: Was Maud in Notts attending this inquisition? If so, then she wasn’t getting ready to celebrate, celebrating or recovering from the celebration of Alianor Nevill’s marriage to Thomas Stanley.

The other thing is Maud’s age. I’d done at bit of extrapolating, working from the premise that Maud was in her mid to late teens when she first married, placed that alongside Hicks’s ‘youthful widow’ and drawn the conclusion that Maud and her second husband, Thomas Nevill, were around the same age – 23 or 24. If Maud was 30 in 1454, she was 28 or 29 when she married Thomas and some five or so years older than him. Friedrich states that Maud was in her early 20s when she married Robert lord Willougby in 1448/9 – a little older than one might expect for a woman of her class and time.

• Maud was in dire financial straits when she married Thomas.

This is something the secondary sources I’ve read don’t think to mention. She’d been turned out of her home on the death of her husband by her stepdaughter, who took possession of everything, even Maud’s dower lands. Maud sent a desperate sos to her uncle, Cromwell, and took shelter with him at Tattershall. Cromwell brought the Nevill marriage about for his own sake – he needed their support against the duke of Exeter – and hers – she needed the financial security a marriage would bring. Any hopes the Nevills had of benefiting financially from this must be postponed until Cromwell’s death. Maud might have lost what she was entitled to of Willoughby wealth, but she would surely secure her share of the Cromwell estate.

Just because Maud had no practical choice in the matter, doesn’t mean she was unhappy with the idea of marrying Thomas. She’d contracted her first marriage because it benefitted her uncle – Willoughby owed Cromwell money and agreed to forego all or part of a dowry in exchange for the forgiving of this debt. For Maud, at this stage, love and personal preference had nothing to do with marriage. How fond or not Maud and Thomas were of each other is now impossible to glean. Back when I didn’t know all this, there was a decided chance that Maud, being a widow and therefore free to make her own decisions when it came to husbands, had chosen to marry Thomas because she at least liked him.

At the moment, my Thomas and my Maud are happy with each other. They like one another, enjoy a healthy sex life and are all excited about their new home. (I wrote down all the properties that Maud and her sister, Joan, eventually inherited from Cromwell and chose one – at Bleasby, Notts – close by Nottingham and Maud’s mother’s house, Tuxford. This is just an educated guess and I’m quite happy to change it if I find out where they actually lived.) I’ve always been planning for this marriage to go through a rocky patch, based on their childlessness, which can put strains on any marriage, and what I perceive to be their political differences. From about 1457 on, Maud and Thomas may not have seen much of each other and, of course, after December 30 1460, they saw nothing of each other at all. Given the new information, the marriage may not ever have been happy. This is something I shall have to consider.

And that’s partly because:

• Maud married Gervase Clifton ‘within months of Thomas Neville’s death’.

It is suggested that this was a love match and ‘flew in the face of all prudence and common sense’. This Gervase was the illegitimate one from Kent, after all, not the heir of Clifton Hall. I don’t mind that, either. Maud’s third marriage hardly features, except in the prologue, and I can fix that without any problems. In fact, I now have a little more to work with. But it leads me to one question: When did they meet? (Friedrichs suggests they may have known each other when Maud was a young girl, but doesn’t give any idea about how they ‘re-met’, both recently widowed.) If they married so quickly after Wakefield (and ‘within months’ doesn’t tell me how many months, sadly), is there a chance that they were already close? Closer than they should have been? Were Maud and Thomas estranged in the last few years of their marriage? And is this why she didn’t attend his funeral? Had she disgraced herself and the Nevills by her relationship with and marriage to Clifton? (Update: I’ve answered some of those questions here.)

So much to think about and so much to rewrite! I am delighted that I found Friedrich’s article. I wish I’d done so earlier. She also has an article on Cromwell, which I’m planning to have in my collection very soon… I just wish journal articles (and me no longer with academic privileges) weren’t the same price as books!


In a ceremony at Reading Abbey, escorted by the earl of Warwick and duke of Clarence,Elizabeth Wydeville is formally recognised as Edward IV’s wife. There follows a week of festivities.


Edward IV, his brother Gloucester, brother-in-law Anthony Wydeville earl Rivers and William lord Hastings set sail for (a brief) exile in Holland.